Stress for dogs often comes from the teacher, not the task.
If your dog is telling you he’s uncomfortable, it’s important to recognize it and make the necessary adjustments.
Stress often manifests in avoidance of some kind or lack of enjoyment and in either case, your dog is telling you something is not right or he’s not ready for the next step.
Sometimes handlers associate this with the task, ‘my dog doesn’t like X” (ie driving, turbacks, shedding), when actually it’s the way it’s been taught that is the problem.
The issue may include your set up, the pressure from the sheep, your foundation training, his confidence (in himself or you) and/or your mindset.
For example, if you approach a new concept by making it difficult (even inadvertently),
have a set up that doesn’t ensure success, have expectations of how quickly your dog should learn, how proficient he should be or if you try to force behavior, it could be that you are creating the stress that your dog then associates with a specific task.
Just like people dogs can get bored when you do the same thing too often, frustrated when it’s too arduous or disheartened when too often being told ‘you’re wrong’.
He is constantly giving feedback with his body language and demeanor; if he’s not enjoying what he’s doing or showing signs of avoidance he may be telling you he needs you to change your approach.
Empowering your dog to reach his full potential includes practicing patience and having a teaching mindset. The cornerstone of a teaching mindset is an intuitive method. Intuitive training results in more understanding and less correction. More understanding and less correction yields higher confidence and increased confidence fosters enjoyment.
Once your dog is enjoying and anticipating what you’re training, try the next step and make adjustments based on his feedback. Your continuous effort to adjust to your dogs response will help him become the best sheepdog he can be—you can just train or you can partner.